It’s not that nothing can change, it’s just that it’s easier to do the same thing over and over, because it’s familiar and comfortable.
As my Grandmother (whom I call, "the folk philosopher") so often said: "If you sit in a pile of (horse poop) long enough, after awhile you say, "Well, at least it’s warm."
Now, I should state that I probably have no right to comment, complain, or otherwise whine—but that’s never stopped me before. I recently moved from the green, lush, sophisticated hills of Saratoga Springs to the green, lush, uber-sophisticated hills of Lexington. I no longer live and work in New York State, no longer biting my nails down to their nubs, waiting for Eliot Spitzer to stop dragging his heels on the racing franchise situation.
But he's finally extricated himself from the fence, made a decision (pending approval by the New York State Legislature) and NYRA got the nod. That's the way we suspected it would play out—and I’m good with that. I don’t have a right to bee-atch, except that I am still a Thoroughbred owner in the Empire State and my horses will be racing at Saratoga, Belmont and Aqueduct (I hope!). So I have vested interest. I also have interest in New York racing because New York very much sets the tone for the rest of the country, at both the racing and perception level of everyone involved at every level of the sport.
OK, you probably figured it by now. I’m a woman, a woman in racing. And what concerns women in racing in New York obviously concerns racing women across these United States. And I surely do hope that NYRA listens to its constituents—women and men alike—and decides to grow its fanbase and the base of bettors by courting womenfolk in ways that are constructive; intelligent; caring and sensitive.
NYRA has a unique opportunity here: assuming that they’re given the go-ahead to renew that contract—and, at this late date, it’s a no-brainer. If they have the franchise, the new NYRA has a chance to show that it’s an organization of visionaries. To lead the country in yet-another area.
NYRA can show America that women in racing are far more than hostesses; arm candy and attractive hatracks. Fat wallets can be found in Louis Vuitton purses as well as in trousers. Those fat wallets can—and should—translate into a new generation of bettors, owners, trainers, jockeys and breeders. NYRA has a once-in-a-lifetime moment here, to lead the charge, working with women (like…me, for example) to assure that females all across the US know: This Sport is for Us!
Think about it: NYRA, charging out of the box on January 1, 2008, can put into place a program for encouraging, nurturing and growing the millions of women and girls who either love this sport or who can learn to love it, if given the education and opportunity.
In many, many ways, NYRA and New York racing have been the standard-bearers for this sport. It’s undeniable that New York racing is the best in the country—my beloved Saratoga being the crčme de la crčme. Imagine a New York racing wherein women and girls are given a larger voice; brought fully into the fold and taught all the nuances of the industry. NYRA can be the first, and best, at being truly female-friendly.
Ah, I’m sure that someone reading this is clucking their tongue and thinking, "I’ll bet she doesn’t know about the Women’s Day at Saratoga Race Course in August 2007." Ah, but I do know about the pseudo-Women’s Day. And I avoided it like the plague. I heard about it only the Friday night before, in a press release from NYRA’s PR firm. (I wondered why Alpha Mare Media and I hadn’t been formally invited to exhibit: we could have put together a booth featuring women exercise riders; trainers; owners and breeders. Women and girls could have met lively, smart, engaging women who’d network with them, and perhaps even discover the fulfillment of their dreams in this beautiful sport of ours).
But we weren’t invited to the party, and couldn’t get a call-back from the radio station running the event.
Women’s Day at the track amounted to nothing more than a cosmetics and hat-purveyors show. The "workshops" were nothing more than sales pitches for home parties, disguised as lessons in make-up application and opportunities to find one’s perfectly-colored chapeau.
This event was not, as advertised, for "women in racing." This event could have been held at a mall or a bowling alley. It was for women, all right, but not specific to this industry at all.
So the Women’s Day at the track was a bust (if you’ll excuse the phrase). For all I know, NYRA may have assumed that the radio station folks were more savvy to the sport than they proved to be. NYRA was probably expecting something educational and on-target. So NYRA can’t be cited for willfully ignoring women who are really in racing, or rabid fans.
And so we will start the new NYRA franchise with a clean slate! This should be very exciting, for NYRA, for women, and for me personally; a pain-in-the-neck crusader. Consider this an open love letter to the new NYRA: in my best Eartha Kitt voice I purr, "Come on, Baby, work with us here." Help us make history, or, perhaps—herstory. Let’s work together to grow this sport. Let’s market it to the one population that’s largely overlooked, the 51% of the population that’s already genetically, spiritually and emotionally predisposed to love Thoroughbreds.
Riders up, NYRA! You hold the reins to the best plan, the largely-ignored plan, to save American racing. They say that if you want to hide something—hide it in plain sight. We women—Broads and Ladies, alike—are right in front of you, waiting to race. Hit that button, open the gate and let’s bound into the future—together, partners in the only guaranteed marketing concept in racing.
NYRA + Women = Wild Success.